In Bob Gaddis’ first two years at Columbus East, the Olympians went 11-11.
Since then, East has been the best football team in any class in Indiana.
With a 161-21 record over the past 14 years, the Olympians have more wins and fewer losses than any team in the state during that span. Class A Linton ranks second at 159-23.
Saturday night, East will try for its second state title in the past four years and its third overall. The Olympians won the Class 3A state title under John Stafford in 1979, and Gaddis led them to the 4A title in 2013.
Because of the state championship in 2013 and a regional title in 2014, East moved up to 5A last year under the IHSAA’s tournament success factor. The fourth-ranked Olympians will play No. 5 Westfield for the 5A title at 7:05 p.m. Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Not only does East have the state’s best record over the past 14 years, it has the best mark over the past 13 years (154-16), the past 12 years (141-15), the past six years (77-6), the past five years (65-4) and the past four years (52-3). The Olympians rank second behind Lafayette Central Catholic over the past seven, eight, nine, 10 and 11 seasons.
Gaddis said that consistency starts with a coaching staff that has been together through most of the past 10 years. He said the kids and their families buying into the program sometimes isn’t easy, but that their effort in the offseason and in season has been huge.
“We’ve had a lot of great players over the years,” Gaddis said. ” But there’s a lot of kids with great potential that are great players that never get a chance to play in the championship. You have to have good players that buy into your system and work — and you have to consistently work. It’s a process.”
East has had two Indiana Mr. Footballs — Gunner Kiel in 2011 and Markell Jones in 2014. Another former Olympian, Stevie Brown, played for four NFL teams.
They have helped Gaddis become the fifth-winningest active coach and the 10th-winningest coach all-time in Indiana. He is 290-132 in 38 seasons, including 172-32 in 16 years at East.
Gaddis came to East from Evansville Reitz in 2001. He was hired by Bill Jensen, the Columbus-based school district’s director of secondary education, who was East’s principal at the time.
“I think there was a lot of potential in the Columbus East community,” Gaddis said. “It took us a while to get it going, but we’ve been able to sustain that. It’s just a great place.”
The state’s top 10 football programs over the past 14 years:
Fort Wayne Snider;155-31;.833